Arlington Heights District 25 says no to full-day kindergarten for now

Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 won't be offering full-day kindergarten anytime soon because it doesn't have the space or money to pay for it, officials said Thursday.

Superintendent Lori Bein said at a school board meeting Thursday night that expanding the current half-day programs to full-day at all seven elementary schools would require 18 additional classrooms. And the district would have to hire at least 20 more full-time teachers, at an estimated cost of $1.25 million a year.

"We would of course love to offer full-day kindergarten. Who wouldn't want our kids to have more time with our teachers?" Bein said. "But we simply do not have the infrastructure to provide for all kids across the district."

Bein and a steering committee that includes kindergarten teachers have been examining the issue since last fall. Some parents have also been clamoring for full-day kindergarten, and 61 percent of some 2,000 respondents to a district survey said they favored it.

But other themes from the survey, which went out to every home in the district, said if full-day were to be implemented, it shouldn't cost taxpayers, all students should have access to it, and it should be sustainable, according to Bein.

More than 70 percent of school districts in Illinois offer full-day kindergarten, including Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59, River Trails Elementary District 26 and Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54.

District 25 parent Kate Fontana was emotional as she addressed the school board Thursday, saying it was "embarrassing" the district didn't offer full-day kindergarten.

"Budget, I understand. Space, I understand," she said. "But other schools in the state of Illinois have the same issues that have made full-day kindergarten programs work before."

Fontana said she would have been willing to pay tuition, which officials estimated to be about $5,000.

District 25 has had a building boom over recent years, with expansions completed at Olive-Mary Stitt and Ivy Hill elementary schools, and Windsor Elementary's addition nearing completion. Bein said those spaces were built with projected enrollment growth and "a little elbow room" in mind - where full-day programming could feasibly fit.

"But we didn't build onto all elementary schools," Bein said. "We don't have space for all children if we were to do it immediately."

Enrollment projections continue to show an upswing over the next five years. Should enrollment start to decline and building space becomes available, Bein said she would bring the issue back for discussion.

District 25 parents push for full-day kindergarten

Lori Bein
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